News Stories/Florida School


 By C.S Gillbert


On Monday, Jan. 27 Gov. Rick Scott proclaimed Jan. 26-Feb 1  as “Florida School Choice Week,” joining a celebration that “spotlights all types of education options for families -– including traditional public schools, public magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, online learning and homeschooling,” according to the press release. The sponsoring group, identified as National School Choice Week, describes itself as “an independent public awareness campaign that shines a spotlight on effective education options for all children.”



A complementary release Tuesday, which interestingly contained identical facts and very similar if not identical phrasing as the governor’s, reported that over “860 events are planned across the Sunshine State, in addition to 5,500 events nationwide.”



The Monroe County schools, however, are not participating. “School Choice is alive and well in Monroe County,” said Assistant Superintendent Terri Axford Tuesday. “We don’t celebrate it per se; it’s a matter of business here. We’ve got six very robust charter schools, and parents embrace the idea that they have that” choice.



Every school district in Florida is “required by statute to have a School Choice Plan, and of course we have that,” Axford continued. Only public schools are included, but the county “also has a variety of private schools parents can choose,” primarily Island Christian and The Basilica School. But most “parental expression has been through charter schools,” she said.



The Tuesday release announced that the “Florida Alliance for Choices in Education will participate in National School Choice Week 2014 by hosting a celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.” That ruling mandated the racial integration of all the nation’s public schools, a first step in the direction of colorblind educational opportunity. “The goal of this January 30 event is to reflect on this landmark decision and its connection to the current school choice movement,” it stated.



Further, the release repeated, “In 2014, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down the policies that divided students and forced them into separate schools, purely based on their race,” said Patricia Levesque, Executive Director, Foundation for Florida’s Future. “Today, many students are still forced to attend their designated public schools, but this time based on geography. Empowering parents with a wide variety of educational choices will finally put an end to this absurd practice and will ensure each student has the opportunity to succeed in an environment that matches his or her needs.”



Yet Brown v. Board of Education seems a strange fit for an organization supporting non-public schools that may, in fact, discriminate based on race, religion, sexual orientation or any other category they choose. The growing national debate is whether public funds should be used to finance those schools, with conservative and faith-based groups on one side of the debate and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union on the other.



The Alliance, based in Coral Springs, skates delicately around the funding issue. “National School Choice Week is an incredible event that allows Florida families to join their collective voices in highlighting educational choices that work best for their children,” said Senator Jim Horne, former Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida. “Policy makers get to see the real passion, dedication and commitment that these families have and will go to — to make sure their children get the best possible education.”



School Choice Week, “which is the nation’s largest-ever celebration of educational opportunity, gives students, parents, and teachers in Florida a chance to raise awareness of the different types of educational options available to families in advance of the 2014-2015 school year. Events across the state will include rallies, school fairs, roundtable discussions, open houses, and parent information sessions,” the Alliance reported.



The movement although not well-known is clearly national. According to the later release, “The Week officially kicked off at a major rally Saturday night in Houston, Texas. On Jan. 28 students wearing National School Choice Week’s signature yellow scarves rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange.”



Choice Week

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